Clinical epidemiologist Dr Michael Donnelly is warning that care homes remain at the epicentre of the Covid-19 crisis and insists not enough was done to prepare for the pandemic.

"A lot of people are dying. As a doctor, I know that if you have a care home and somebody gets has vomiting and diarrhoea, fairly soon everyone has vomiting and diarrhoea," he says. "I can't see that measures were taken to give extra protection to the care homes.. when we look back at this, that will be seen as serious fault"

 DR DONNELLY: Virus is cleverer than us.[/caption]
DR DONNELLY: Virus is cleverer than us.[/caption]

"The house is falling down," he said. "We need more testing in the community."

The South Belfast physician says Ireland's natural advantage as an island is "being thrown away" by the determination of the Health Department to take its lead from London. "This virus is a lot cleverer than us. It is a lot more strong-willed than us. We have to have the discipline to stick to the quarantine and the government has to have the discipline to do the necessary testing."

Dr Donnelly was hopeful restrictions might be eased by the end of June. "The social distancing and hand washing will continue but I think people who have been cocooning will be able to get out and about by the first week in July."

"SMALL PRICE TO PAY": Passengers arriving into Belfast City Airport on Wednesday 22 April. Photos by Thomas McMullan
"SMALL PRICE TO PAY": Passengers arriving into Belfast City Airport on Wednesday 22 April. Photos by Thomas McMullan

While accepting that was a burden for many, he said the alternative was far worse. "If you were lying dying in the Mater Hospital and someone said to you, 'I could sort you out but you have to just go home and stay behind closed doors for six-eight weeks', you would probably say, 'that's fine doctor, I will do that'."

Dr Donnelly remains dismissive of the refusal of First Minister Arlene Foster to adopt an all-Ireland approach to tackling the coronavirus. "Paisley famously said the cattle were Irish which meant foot and mouth disease could be tackled on a one-island basis but in this case, the advantage of being an island people is being thrown away.